Proposal Exclusion: Class, Gender, and College Culture

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1


Proposal



Exclusion:

Class, Gender, and College Culture



Elizabeth A. Armstrong

Laura Hamilton

Indiana University
1

March
2008



Overview:

C
ollege
is presumed to be about studying and grades, about
learning skills
and acquiring
credential
s

to help get a
job. And it is. But many
students, particularly
those attending four
-
year residential
colleges, s
pend a lot of time socializing. N
avigating
the social side of college life is

a time
-
consuming,

high
-
stakes

activity
. Y
e
t
little
is
known
about

the dynamics an
d consequences of college peer cultures. Drawing on a
longitudinal ethnographic and interview study

of the experiences of a cohort of
college
women
, this book

exp
l
ore
s

how students create and navigate social
hierarchies
and the
consequences of social su
cce
ss and

failure
.


In the fall o
f 2004

we

occupied

a dorm
itory

room on a women’s floor

in

a
co
-
educ
ational residence hall
at Indiana University
.
2

We sought to involve ourselves in the
lives of the 53 mostly first
-
year women living on the hall

two
-
thirds

of w
hom were

upper
-
middle
or upper
class, the others from less affluent backgrounds. We
observed life
on the floor over the course of the academic

year

and
conducted in
-
depth interviews with



1

Department of Sociology, Ballantine Hall 744, 1020 E. Kirkwood Ave., Indiana University, Bloomington,

IN 47405
-
7103 (
elarmstr@indiana.edu
;
lauhamil@indiana.edu
).

2

Armstrong initiated research for this book in the fall of 2003 with the support of a National Academy of
education/Spencer Foundation Postdoctoral Fellowship. Her work on this book was supported during the
2007
-
08 academic year by a Radcliffe Fellowship at Harvard University.


2

41

of these women

as freshme
n
, and re
-
inter
viewed

them as sophomore
s
,

juniors, and
seniors
. By senior year, 45 of the women particip
ated in at least one interview. Thirty
-
three
women participated in interviews

all 4 years.

We plan to interview the cohort again
during their first year out of college.

In this book we will sh
ow that college social life
is not merely a lighthearted
distraction from the real business of the university. Social life on campus is stratified and
segregated, providing students with differential access to desirable social networks and
opportunities to

acquire valuable cultural styles. The operation of student culture is one
way that higher education links class origins and destinations

most bluntly, by making
less privileged students so uncomfortable that some leave college, and making privileged
stude
nts so comfortable that they stay in college despite, in some cases, an almost
complete lack of academic motivation
.

Indiana University

a school that some students choose because,

as they told us,
it
offer
s

a “quin
tessential” college experience

i
s a
good
place to study

college peer
cultures
. Many
American young people

attend
universities like this one: I
t is, after all,
mass
education

at the college level
. The student
body
, while
largely drawn from t
he
middle and upper classes, is

more economically diverse

than
that

found at
more elite
private universities.
3

While
policy makers view
economic diversity
as evidence that
higher education is accessible to a broad range of families,
this diversity may not be
universally welcomed

by students.




3

Despite lower tuition
, particularly for in
-
state
students, Midwest public universi
ties report higher
proportions of students receiving Pell Grants

than elite privates
, suggesting greater economic diversity

(
U.S. News and World Report 2007).
In a study of the social backgrounds of thousands of students
attending elite universities,
Masse
y et al.
(2003)

found
class diversity

among students of color

but not
among w
hite students
, who were virtually all
from upper
-
middle
-
c
lass or upper class backgrounds.


3

W
e found that studen
ts
segregated themselves by class, preferring

to
associate
with others like themselves.

They created
homogenous networks
through

ongoing,
everyday processes of affiliation and avoidance

we refer to these processes as
social
sorting
. Our ethnographic and lo
ngitudinal design enabled us to witness social sorting as
it occurred

from initial social triumphs and rebuffs experienced during the first days on
campus through senior year reflections a
bout college experiences. We observed

and
sometimes experienced

stud
ent efforts to affiliate with those perceived to be high status
and to avoid those perceived to be low status
.
We saw the euphoria of those
who

found
the social scene to be, at least initially, as thrilling as expected.
We heard of the misery of
being reje
cted from top houses during sorority recruitment
, and the frustrations of the less
affluent when wealthy women complained loudly in the halls about having “nothing to
wear
.


We saw students leave the university, in part because of a recognition that they
j
ust didn’t fit. We witnessed

and to an extent suffered along with the floor

as a “mean
girl” domina
ted the top clique on the
dorm
floor. U
nlike others on the floor,
though,
we
had the opportunity to listen to her make sense of her behavior
in the years aft
er she
moved out of the residence hall.

Class background influenced every aspect of social s
orting on campus.
4

A
ffluent
women established the rules of the social g
ame on the residence hall floor.
S
orority
recruitment worked to sort
first year

women

into gr
oups of similarly privileged women.
C
lass served a critical role in
the
provision of the social and other resources necessary to



4

Race
is, of course,
another dimension along which students sort. Due to the racial homogeneit
y of Indiana
University, and

re
sidential segregation
on campus
, the floor we studied was 100% white. The racial
composition of this university and other Midwest public universities is in striking contrast to
that
of elite
private schools. As a consequence of decades of aggressive compet
ition for the best
minority students in
the country

(Stevens 2007),
Harvard, Yale, Stanford, and top liberal arts college matriculate roughly
9%
African Americans and have reduced the proportion of white domestic students to about 60%. In contrast,
Indiana

and its peers matriculate roughly 4
-
5% African Americans and 80
-
85% white domestic students
(
U.
S. News and World Report 2007)
.


4

thrive on campus outside of the Greek system. Less affluent students were more likely to
find themselves socially isolated at t
he end of the first year, more likely to leave campus
in part
as a result of social isolation, and less likely to recover
from initial social isolation
if they stayed.

Social sorting occurred in the pursuit of

fun.
Students, particularly those from
affluen
t backgrounds, arrived at college
expecting

to
have

“the best years of their lives.”
They were
anxious
for

the sort of college experience
s

described by older friends and
portrayed in the media

involving wild parties, lots of liquor, sexy hookups, and
memor
able friendships
. Yet they found that
having
fun was harder than
expected, as it
required
a
ccess to
people and
contexts

with the resources to produce fun
.

The pursuit of
fun
both motivated and legitimated exclusion

students

felt that they were entitled to
have

fun
, and that they
couldn’t possibly be expected to
do so

with people with whom
they had nothing in common.

C
lass was rarely

explicitly evoked by women as they made decisions about who
to befriend and avoid. As many have obser
ved, Americans tend to be

inarticulate
on
the
subject
of class.
G
ender style served

as a w
ay to represent and read class

(Bettie 2003)
.
W
omen identified as “cute” and as “
having a good personality


and thus as

candidates for
sorority
admission
were virtually always
white and
from

upper
-
middle
-
cla
ss and upper
class backgrounds.

A

cute


woman

was not only thin and pretty, but also tan, well
-
groomed, and able to select and wear
expensive,

stylish clothes
.

Where women

landed socially was consequential. It
was

through social sorting
a
nd within peer cultures that some of th
e deepest lessons of college were
learned.

Both
women at the top and the bottom experienced stress and disappointment

as they found
it

5

painful to be
judged, ranked
, and, if they made it into sororities, regulated.
Soc
ial sorting
influenced
connections made

the kind
s

of
people met, both as
friends and boyfriends.
Women’s class background

and trajectory usually

matched that of the men they dated.
S
ocial position also influenced the nature of
cultural capital

that women a
cquired

(Bourdieu 1973; 1984; 1996)
.

Living in a

sorority,

in particular, had an
influence on the
embodiment of femininity, leading women to fu
rther refine an already internalized
, high
status

gender

style.
Privileged and upwardly m
obile women also found that
college
experience
s

refined their notions about

how to

approach men,
dating, sex, and marriage
,
placing them
on the path to marriage to similarly privileged, well
-
educated men
. Social
position in college was also

consequential for
women’s post
-
college trajectories, as
v
ariation

in
mental

health, networks, and

cultural capital

shaped women’s initiative and
options as they took tentative steps toward post
-
college lives.


Context
:

This argument outlined above challenges fundamental assumptions about the
nature of higher education.
Belief that higher education is
meritocratic is fundamental to
the American dream. Parents, students, university administrators, and the field of higher
e
ducation scholarship alike take

for granted a set of interrelated assumptions about the
nature and purposes of
higher education
. Ameri
cans
view higher education as the
pathway to
social mobility and
assume
that a college degree ensures entry into the middle
class. They assume that, once admitted to a particular school, students start with a
roughly level playing field academically and so
cially. College is assumed to be
competitive

in the classroom and over grades. Social competition,
which all but the
most uninitiated know to occur
, is

assumed to be a harmless
reprieve from
academic

6

striving
. Thus, while sororities and fraternit
ies are

kn
own to be

exclusionary on the

basis
of class a
nd race,
this
discrimination
i
s not viewed as contaminating
the meritocratic core

of the university.

In contrast, we argue that social competi
tion in college is not

separate
from academic competition or irrelev
ant to li
fe chances.

We are
not

the first
to question the meritocrac
y of higher education.

Lively
d
ebates

are ongoing
a
bout the extent to which

education in general, and
h
igher education
in particular,

reproduce
s

prior class advantage or promote
s

the
talen
ted of

each new
generation

(see Stevens, Armstrong and Arugm 2008; Mullen, Goyette and Soares 2003
for reviews of these debates)
.

Most contemporary sociologica
l research, particularly in
the educational stratification tradition, sees class background as influen
cing class
destinations via the
academic side of education. Affluent, educated parents have the
resources to secure the best educatio
n for their children,

advantaging

them in college
admission and in academic competition during college, and subsequently in the labor
market
(Lareau 2003
; Mullen, Goyette and Soares 2003; Stevens 2007
;
Karabel 2005;
Karen 1991; Karen 2002; Soares 2007; Stevens 2007)
. F
ew
scholars

of contemporary
higher education

consider how
social

processes in college are related
to class origins and
class destinations.

A body of historical literature documenting the ways that college social assisted in
the formation of the upper class exists, however.
Classic works

include

Baltzall’s
Philadelphia Gentlemen

(1958)
, Hall’s
The Organization of American Culture, 1700
-
1900

(1992)
, and Story’s
The For
ging of an Aristocracy: Harvard and the Boston Upper
Class

(1980)
.

This
scholarship
focused almost exclusively
on

the upper class and on

elite
schools in the Northeast

particular
ly Harvard, Yale, and Princeton

(see Baltzell 1958;

7

Cookson and Persell 1985; Horowitz 1987; Stevens 2007; Zweigenhaft 1993;
Zweigenhaft and Domhoff 2003)
.
We ext
end the study of the role college social l
ife

in
the reproduction of privilege from the past to the present, and

direct

attention to the
middle of the institutional hierarchy

(Hamilton 2006)
.

5



It is even less common for scholars to examine how gender dynamics in higher
education may contribute to social reproduction. Holland and Eisenhart
(1990)

show how
gendered relations in college contribute to the reproduction of gender inequality. They
found that women’s participation in the culture of romance in college led women to
re
duce their academic and career expectations. We suggest, however, that
class

as well as
gender is reproduced within and through gender relations in college
(Bettie 2003)
.
Gender is a fundamental

principle of social organization

it plays a role in virtually all
social relationships
. Gender conveys information about social class. Heterosexual

alliances

tend to be endoga
mous by class, which
assists in both con
solidating advantage
and transferring it

from one generation to the next
(Arum, Budig and Roksa Forthcoming;
DiPrete and Buchmann 2006; Kalmijn 1991; Mare 1991)
. As families play a declining
role in organizing marriage
(Rosenfeld 2007)
, hi
gher education plays an increasing role.
College peer cultures serve as important contexts for the formation of networks,
experiences, expectations, and s
tyles that shape marriage patterns, even when marriage
occurs years after college.

Our arguments
also
challenge dominant approaches to undergraduate education in
the field of higher education. After the influential work of Tinto
(1987)
, the study of
college social life within higher education has been organized around the study of “social



5

Stevens
(2007)
, Massey et al.
(2003)
, and Zweigenhaft and Domhoff
(2003)
, while still focused on elite
institutions, move beyond The Big 3.


8

integration” or “engagement.”

It is undoubtedly true that more socially integrated
students
remain in college

many studies

confirm

this.
T
his perspective
implicitly
assumes
that univer
sities are equally committed to

integrating all students.

Student
culture is envisioned as relat
ively egalitarian and inclusive
.
Marginalization is

viewed as
either

evidence of pathology on the part of the student culture or as a result of individual
failings on the part of students
(Tierney 1992)
.

This a
pproach, which dominates the field
of
higher education
,

do
es

little to account for the consistent evidence that minority,
working class, and other marginalized groups are routinely excluded from the mainstream
of college life at many colleges and universit
ies
(Allen, Epps and Haniff 1991; Aries and
Seider 2005; Feagin, Vera and Imani 1996; Hurtado and Carter 1997; Stuber 2006a;
Stuber 2006b)
.


In contrast, we
a
ssert

that student cultures are essentially
hierarchical,

mirroring the strati
fication of the larger
society.
T
he production of exclusion is central to
student cultures, as fundamental to the stratifying project of higher education as assigning
grades.
6


Our findings have general theoretical implications, as exc
lusion is a general social
process. Scholars of social networks and inequality have observed that the preference for
association with like others is fundamental to the reproduction of inequality
(McPherson,
Smith
-
Lovin and Cook 2001)
. Sociologists of culture have studied how studied the
symbolic boundaries that people draw between themselves a
nd others

how people come
to classify others as “worthy”
(Lamont 1992)
. Symbolic interactionists, building on
Goffman
(1959)
, have identified techniques people use to get and avoid interaction.
Ethnographers of primary and secondary education have explored how children create



6

Our
perspective can be seen as resuscitating a tradition
of sociological work

on

student cultures
abandoned in the late 1960s

(Clark and Trow 1966; Larson and Leslie 1968; Reiss 1965; Scott 1965;
Waller 1937)
.



9

local hierarchies through interaction
(Eder, Evans and Parker 1995)
. Yet there is little
cross
-
fertilization among these literatures. Scholars of social networks and sociologists of
culture know little about how people pursue af
filiation with those they admire and avoid
ties with those they fear or scorn. Symbolic interactionists do not typically examine how
local strategies for getting or deflecting interaction aggregate into durable patterns of
social inequality. With the hope
of contributing to the general understanding of the
micro
-
foundations of inequality, our work will integrate these traditions and identify the
interactional strategies used as women struggled for social position in this social world,
and develop the implic
ations of local strategizing and local status hierarchies for large
-
scale inequalities
(see Schwalbe et al. 2000 for a review of work in this area)
.


Audiences:

Exclusion
should interest
college administrators, parents, and prospective
college students, as well as the field of higher education and
sociologists of education,
gender, fa
mily, life course, and culture. As an accessible introduction to social inequality
in the context of contemporary American undergraduate life, the book
should

be
marketed as a text for undergraduate courses in sociology, anthropology, cultural studies,
edu
cation, gender studies, and human development. Every effort
will

be made
to write for
a broad audience. W
e
will
weave profiles of individual women throughout the text in
order to personalize the narrative.


Market Position / Related Titles:

Col
lege life is

of
interest to many audiences. Yet no
recently published title directly competes with th
is book.
The two

books most similar to
this one are

Educated in Romance
, by Holland and Eisenhart

(1990)
,
and

Coming of Age

10

in New Jersey

(1989)
,

by Moff
att
.
While dated, t
hey both
continue to sell.
Nathan’s
more
contemporary
ethnography,
My Freshman
Yea
r

(2005)
,

focuses primarily on the
academic side of college life

(as does the only other ethnography of student life we are
aware of, Becker’s
Making the Grade

(1968)
)
.

That
My Freshman Year

which reveals
nothing about sex, drinking, popularity, or Greek life

received major media coverage
and continues t
o gen
erate strong sales suggests
wide
interest in the American college
experience.

In the last few years,
journalists
have capitalized on this interest by offering lurid
accounts of contemporary college social life.
Privilege

(Douthat 2005)

views college life
through the eyes of one male Harvard undergraduate.

Pledged

(Robbins 2004)

offers

a
sensationalistic account

of so
rority life.
Beer and Circus

(2000)

and
Binge

(2005)

describe college life as an anti
-
int
ellectual drunken free
-
for
-
all.

Bright College Years

(Matthews 1997)
,

while more measured, skates on the surface of college life
, as does a
new history of women in college
,
College Girls

(Peril 2006)
. Reviewers

have
expressed
frustration

with the
evidentiary basis
of
some of
these books, suggesting that there
is
an
audience for well
-
researched, but
accessible treatments

of undergraduate
experience
(McGrath 2008)
.

The hunger for
insight into college experience has not been satisfied by research
in the academic field of higher education. While this field
has virtually
monopolized the
study of
student l
ife for the last thirty years
,

it tends to approach
undergraduate
experience from the perspective administrator
s, not students

(Astin 1993; Bowen and
Bok 1998; Bowen, Kurzweil and Tobin 2005; Boyer 1987; Kuh 1993; Le
vine and
Cureton 1998; Light 2004; Massey et al. 2003; Tinto 1987)
.

For example,

Bok
(2006, p.

11

58)

noted

that:
“Any use
ful discussion of undergraduate education must being by making
clear what it is that colleges are trying to achieve.” What it is that
students

are trying to
achieve is
peripheral
.
Within the field, e
valuation of the extent to which colleges
achieve

their

g
oals is through the administration and analysis of
surveys
(see Pas
carella and
Terenzini 2005 for a comprehensive review of this research)
.

In contrast,

we
will
highlight the agendas of
students an
d show the complexities
of their lives as they struggle
to make it through college.

No contemporary sociological study of und
ergraduate student culture
compares
with ours
with respect to the quality of the data or the analytical leverage provided by the
ethnographic and longitudinal research design.
7

With

a year of ethnographic observation
and five

wa
ves of interviews
, we have d
etailed information about how our respondents
changed over the course of college, and
will have information
about how they fare in the
understudied

transition out of college. Our rapport with the
participants

is reflected in our
high initial response rate
and low attrition from the study over time.

The class diversity of the floor
enabled

us to compare the trajectories of the
advantaged and disadvantaged over time

including the tracking of students who left the
university.
While it is a limitation tha
t all

our study participants were

white, we identify
the processes that produced an entirely racially homogenous floor, and discuss the efforts
that women on our floor made to diversify their friendship groups

or, more commonly,
to keep them racially homogenous
.




7

Graduating Class

(Goodwin 2006)

and
Blacks in the White Elite
(Zweigenhaft and Domhoff 2003)

are
both

lon
gitudinal investigations of the college experiences of disadvantaged individuals. Neither has an
ethnographic component or a comparison with more privileged

students
, however.
Other recent
studies
focus on an aspect of college life. For example,
Inside Gr
eek U.

(2007)

explores gender relations in the
Greek system, while
Hooking Up

(2008)

explores the dynamics of the hookup culture on campus.



12

We would be flattered to see this book compared with

Lareau’s

Unequal
Childhoods

(2003)

and Stevens


Creating a Class

(Stevens 2007)
. We
extend

the
theoretical pers
pective they deploy and aspire

to emulate their
engaging
,

but analytically
rigorous style of presentation.

We also see this study as extending

a rich tradition

ethnography on

primary and secondary sc
hools

(e.g. Adler and Adler 2003; Bettie 2003;
Cookson and Persell 1985; Corsaro 1997; Eckert 1989; Eder, Evans and Parker 1995;
Macleod 1987; Merten 1999; Milner 2004; Thorne 1993; Tobin, Wu and Davidson 1989;
Willi
s 1977)
.



Manuscript Length

and Timetable
:

300
-
325

publication pages, exclusive of notes,
references,

and

index.

The manuscript will include
relevant tables, figures (e.g. a fl
oor
chart and network diagrams)

and possibly photographs

(e.g.,
“party pics” t
o demo
nstrate
the practice of documenting
presence at high status social events)
.

The last wave of
interviews will be collected by December 2009. Analysis and writing are underway and
will run concurrently with the final wave of data collection. We anticip
ate delivering a
complete book manuscript in May 2010.


Tentative Chapter Outline

Introduction.

The High Stakes of College Social Life

We launch the book
by contrasting the social experiences
of
three

women

who lived on
the floor.

These profiles illustrate

the major arguments of the book
:

Social competition
is
consequential for the way in which college sorts people onto different
life
trajectories
.
Those who come from privileged backgrounds are advantaged in this social sorting
,

13

although skillful navigation

of college offers opportunity for upward mobil
ity.
The
introduction
briefly describe
s

the study
, with particular attention to the
methodological
issues and challenges related t
o studying college peer cultu
re. We describe the data we
coll
ected

and
how we
g
ot

access to
lives of the women who
se

stories are at the heart of
this book.

We

conclude the chapter with a roadmap to

the rest of
the book
.


Chapter 1
.

Social Sorting
Before College

This chapter establishes the empirical context for the book.
W
e begin w
ith
an overview
of the
processes

historical, gender,
class, family

that

created the conditions for these
women

to end up at this university in this living arrange
ment at this historical moment.
We look at the
growth and diversification of higher education,

including the increasing
incorporation of women
.
We place Indiana University

in the larger organizational
ecology of U
.
S
.

higher education, noting that it is

a respectable four year residential
university, decidedly
outside of the very elite

of American c
olleges and universities
.
This
position in the middle of the hierarchy lends particular interest to the sorting processes
that occur

students include the downwardly mobile of the upper classes, the upwardly
mobile of the working class, and
those

in between
.
We describe the demographics of
Indiana University, in comparison to its peers.
We overview
residential life
at Indiana
University

the reputations of various residence halls and how
students are assigned to
dorms
. We describe the
women

on our floor,
noti
ng

that all were white
, and discuss

the
sources of

ra
cial segregation on this campus
.

By most criteria the floor residents would
be viewed as strikingly homogenous

they were 18
-
20 year old
,

unmarried
,

childless
,

white
,

American women with similar education
al aspirations. N
onethele
ss, from their

14

point of view, the
floor

was
problematically diverse
.
Differences of class, religion,
region, and sexual orientation
would
all prove to be troubling
.


Chapter 2
.
The Floor

T
he first social challenge of college is nav
igating
the freshman living environment. At

this university this means finding a social niche

on a dorm floor housing as many as

50

other first
-
year students.
Students need
people to
eat

with
, to party with,
to walk to class
with
,
and
future roommates
.
Sol
ving this problem and solving it
quickly is

of vital
importance as

it is humiliating to find oneself alone and socially desperate.
From an adult
perspective, making friends in college
may look easy: H
ow could it be difficult for
students

to make friends wh
en surrounded by
so many

others in the same

situation?

F
or some, finding a social niche on the floor and in the university was not hard.
For others, however, this problem was difficult, even insurmountable. Some were still
struggling to make friends, even

as seniors. Others left the university, in part because
they never located a social niche.

We show how and why certain styles of interac
tion got
established as dominant

on the floor and the consequences of these

rules for different
women. A

network diagra
m

constructed from interview
ee

reports of social relationships
with all others on the floor

enable
s

us to
show variation in success in forging ties on the
dorm floor.

We
show that one’s position in the f
loor
hierarchy

depended
on p
rior
connections

already
knowing people on campus, particularly one’s roommate

and the
ability to successfully interact according to the local rules
.
Paradoxically, social success
on the floor was predicated on already having enough friends that one didn’t
need

to
make friends on
the floor.
Class background was heavily linked to prior con
nections


15

more affluent women arrived with

both more social ties and more locally valuable social
ties
.



Chapter 3. The Party Scene

How women relate

to men when they
ar
e out at night
i
s also salien
t for their position on
campus

in relationship to both men and women. “Going out” was one of the central
activities of college

particularly during the first few weeks of freshman year. Socially
ambitious women on our floor headed out to party before they e
ven finished setting up
their dorm rooms.

Partying is not just about cutting loose and having fun
,
it is also about
establishing a place in campus social hierarchies.

Whether one is hot or not, sexy or
slutty

and, equally important

the “quality” of the oth
er women with whom one
associates
, is demonstrated through being seen in
high status
venues on weekend nights

and in “party pics” posted on Facebook
.

Not going out relegated one to the social
sidelines, leaving one

isolated on the floor.
Hooking up with hi
gh status men provided
public evidence of attractiveness
,
although hooking up too frequently or too publicly was
viewed
as slutty
.

Navigating the fine line between sexy and slutty was an ongoing
challenge

one that class
-
based resources assisted one in nego
tiating more successfully.

W
omen are judged on the extent to which
they achieve culturally defined
notions
of feminine beautify. This hierarchy reinforces racial and class hie
rarchies at the same
time:

Women
straightened or dyed

their hair or

wore
colored

contact lenses

to more
closely emulate the “blonde” ideal
.

J
ust as the residential worlds of this campus are
racially segreg
ated, so are the social worlds.
The imperative to be “hot,” defined as
sexually attractive to high status men on campus,
generated

disdain for
women who did

16

not

meet these ideals. While it was

recognized that not everyone

had equal raw material
,
earnest efforts were appreciated, at least by other women. Women w
ho refused to even
try

were viewed with deep suspicion.

Even women’s views
of lesbians were shaped by
the hotness
imperative, with more antipathy directed toward

lesbians who did not present
as

hot
” according to heterosexual standards
.

It hardly needs to be stated that the (white) party scene is fueled by alcohol, and
that
sex
is high on the agenda of many college students.
Alcohol, a predatory approach to
sex on the part of some men, and fraternity control over partying
produces an
environment in which nonconsensual sex is a run
-
of
-
the
-
mill consequence of the
production of “fun
” and status
.
Vulnerabili
ty to sexual assault
b
ecomes yet another site of

hierarc
hies among women. Younger, less sophisticated, less well
-
connected women are
viewed as fair game for sexual exploitation, while
socially savvy

women dating fraternity
men

are
viewed as off limits.

This chapter will

draw on
ideas developed in papers we
have written on hooking up, sexual assault, and homophobia among women
(Armstrong,
Hamilton and Sweeney 2006; Hamilton 2007; Hamilton and Armstrong 2008)
.


Chapter 4
.
Rush

For more than half of the upper
-
middle
-
class and upper class women (and an

even higher
percentage of women

from out
-
of
-
state
,

all of whom were affluent
), it was through
joining a sorority
that they
found
their
social niche on campus.

It is no secret

that
sororities select members on the basi
s of class, race,
and adherence to conventional
American standards of feminine beauty
and

sociality
(DeSantis 2007; Robbins 2004)
.
At
the same time, i
n contemporary American society, particularly in higher education,

it is

17

viewed
as distasteful to explicitly
exclude individuals
because they are
po
or, not white,

or
unattractive
. Sororities are thus presented with the challenge of identifying
affluent and
a
ttractive
women
(and excluding others)
without overly
explicit references to money or

looks
.


This chapter
identifies

the techniques through which

this was accomplished.
W
e
show the power of gender
style to signify class
, enabling women to literally embody and
display
privilege

in ways that

their future
sorority
sisters could interpret
.
As one
woman

explained,
“money is like written all over them.”
Sorority women u
sed the term “cute”

to
refer to a presentation that revealed a stylish taste in clothes, the ability to pay for them,
and the physique and skill required to
“pull off” the outfit. For example, o
ne
upper class
sorority woman explained how so
rorities might react to a woman attending recruitment in
a “cute outfit.” She explained that if a girl

“comes in a
really cute outfit,
and looks
really
cute, they’re going to
say something like,

this girl was so cute, she was dressed in Bill
Blass.
’ I
f th
ey happen to know the designer she was in then they might mention it.

A
s
much as it sh
ouldn’t matter, in this society

people do look at that.”

Through describing
the
rush
experiences
of
women on the floor, we
will how and why the
less affluent
women were

e
limin
ated
. All
who participated

successful and unsuccessful ali
ke

learned
where they fell in
this pecking order.


Chapter 5
.

Sorting O
utside of the Greek System

L
ess than half of the women on the floor joined a sorority. D
id the Greek system continue
to ca
st such a shadow over the social lives of non
-
Greek women? Did they feel excluded?
Did they challenge the claims to status
made by sorority women?
Did they make friends

18

and have a fulfilling social life? These are some of the questions addressed in this
ch
apter.
A

few non
-
Greek women had full, rich social lives right from the start
.
These
women

were affluent,
not Jewish and
from in
-
state. They

brought to campus already
formed social networks and did not depend upon making new friends on the floor.
They
were

in the minority, however.
T
he majority of non
-
Greek women

most

from working
class
and lower middle class
backgrounds

found themselves socially isolated at the end
of the first year
.
S
ome, after strenuous efforts,
ended up with many friends,
while others
r
emained on the margins of campus life
.

Still others left the university.

These
outcomes

were shaped by
women’s varied

abilities

to diagnose
the situation

and react proactively,
the strength of their commitment

to school
, and the degree of family support. O
n all of
these dimensions, more affluent women were advantaged.
M
ost

of the working class
women (6 out of
8) left the university
.



Chapter 6
.


Greek Life


In their well
-
regarded book about prep schools,
Cookson and
Persell
(1985)

refer to prep
school as a “cru
cible” to convey the pain involved in
transforming a child into an upper
class adult.
Similarly,

navigating sorority life was not easy

for the women we st
udied
.
Status competition

did not end (although it substantially eased) with a bid to join a
sorority. Time requirements were onerous, particularly in the stressful period of pledging
(the time between being offered a big and forma
l initiation
). Living in
the sorority meant
little privacy, high s
urveillance, and lots of rules.
As others

have noted
, intense
conditions

of this sort

tend to produce

deep and lasting
transformation

of self.

This
chapter begins our shift from exploring how women were sorted to
th
e

consequences

of

19

this sorting
, as we delve into how the rituals and practices of sorority life led to a deeper
internalization of conventional forms of femininity.


Chapter 7. Dating and Mating for Upward Mobility

The sorting of men and women into marita
l alliances is central to the reproduction of
privilege.

The role of higher education in shaping marital markets and marital strategies
is not well understood
. In this chapter we demonstrate that college sorts women into
different dating pools, influencing

not only the “quality” of the men they date in college,
but, perhaps more importantly in an era where the privileged marry well after college, re
-
organizing marital orientations, strategies, and
timelines.

Women learn about
viable ways
to meet potential h
usbands
after college
and
about
criteria by which to evaluate
their
quality.


Chapter
8
.
Int
o the Real World:
Consequences of Social Sorting

We

summarize

women’s

social

fates in college,
focusing on
the role of
class background.
We explore the consequenc
es of different social positions, particularly with respect to
network expansion and development of cultural capital. We show how class background,
college social success, academic performance (e.g., grades and majors), and the transition
out of college ar
e connected.
For example, at the time of the last i
nterview, one working
class woman who left the university
was struggling to complete courses at a community
college while facing the rapid deterioration of an early,
abusive

marriage, while another
,
more p
rivileged

woman

was heading off to take a lucrative job as an accountant. Some
variation in trajectories was a result of women’s
differing
acade
mic performance

their

20

major
s
, how much they studied, their grades. Some was a direct consequence of class
backgr
ound

women from more privileged backgrounds continued to get more financial
support than women from less privileged backgrounds. But
women’s social position in
college also influenced their
trajectories
. Women who ended up on the margins of college
social
life were less like
ly than others to be on a
path toward a middle class life.
We
compare the trajectories

of working class and upper
-
middle
-
class women, showing that
initial class differences were largely reproduced.
W
e highlight exceptions to the rule,
id
entifying and explaining the
fate
s of the
wom
en who, at this juncture, seem
to be the
most upwardly and downwardly mobile.


Chapter 9
.

Why

College Social Life Matters

Class
background
influences the ways in which students are sorted with
in student peer
c
ultures.
Coll
ege is more fun for some: Upper
-
middle
-
class resources, socialization, and
networks provide access to the partying and revelry glorified in popular culture
.
Differential access to the sensual, emotional, and relational pleasures of college has

consequences, as
intense experiences build

bonds and

shared cultural knowledge.

It is
through

socializing

that sexual and romantic partners are found, and
students refine their
ways

of relating
. They take these new ways
of relating into life beyond

colleg
e, with the
consequence that those who have had similar college experiences can easily recognize
each other (although sporting sweatshirts and bumper stickers from the alma mater helps)
and select each other as business partners, friends, and marital partn
ers.
C
ollege
attendance

contributes to the organization of the class structure in the United States

not

21

only through credentialing and the development of

individual
human capital, but

through
the formation of class cultures and social networks.

We conclude

the book by developing the

policy

implications of our arguments.
This book suggests that students will likely attempt and succeed at thwarting efforts of
colleges and universities to try to mix up students and

encourage diverse association.
T
here are, how
ever,
steps that col
leges and universities can take
.

For example, r
ecruiting
from diverse networks in order to prevent large groups of privileged students from
attending college
together

may help, as might providing students from economic
ally

disadvantaged

backgrounds more assistance in both recognizing the sources of the
difficulties they experience and becoming integrated into the university.
However, these
measures sidestep t
he

most obvious policy implication

the dismantling of social clubs
that exclude
on the basis of
race, class, gender, and
sexual orientation. The difficulty of
challenging the Greek system

the most racially exclusive organization in American
society (
DeSantis 2007
)

provides the final piece of evidence for our argument.
Challenges to
th
e Greek system
face

formidable resistance

precisely because of elite
investment in the class reproductive features of
undergraduate life
.

Elite loyalty to
particular colleges and universities is, in part,
built through the
sensual
pleasures of
college life
. Threatening to eliminate the fun of college
violates
an implicit cont
ract
between elite families and
higher education
:
U
niversities

provide the context to allow
the
privileged

young the opportunity to engage in four years of exclusionary networking
under

the guise of innocent fun
. In turn, elite families
reward these universities by
enrolling their children,
paying full tuition
,

and generously supporting the

university

in

22

perpetuity
.

We hope that in this book
we
demonstrate

that
college fun
, while very re
al, is
neither innocent nor inconsequential.


Methodological Appendix:
Investigating College Life

In this appendix we describe the research desi
gn and methodology in detail. While we
will bring our own reactions and experiences into the text as relevant,
in this chapter we
will describe the experience of the research and

our relationships with the women on the
floor

in more detail.


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